Fall 2019, Volume 27

Poetry by Devin Kelly

Considering a Future

The birds are back above the city & I hear
one of them whistling to the other
we timed it all wrong, nothing has blossomed
yet & I forgot to pack a sweater. The other
says it is okay. He tightens his breast & feels
his wing skim the fat from air. He says
at least you are not lonely & the other nearly
spans the gap & all that sits still below
with one yarn of his feather & I feel their love
the way a cloud must feel the space the moon
shines all the way between & then through it.
I think of sitting in the descent of another evening
that is not this one in the soft echo of a child’s
not-too-distant laughter, knowing I did alright.
Without God, my faith has returned & I long
to say I did well before I have nothing left
to say. The birds are out of sight, & they have
carried their love with them. To think:
one lifetime of ours contains so many lifetimes
of birds. They mind nothing but the changing
changes of the seasons, not knowing how we
have harmed them & made, as a result, the once
simple act of life irreparable. Who am I to sit
in the midst of such love in the midst of so much
that is not love? To what or to whom do I owe
this challenge? To you, I think, your body
joining me in that sweet dusk, holding that same
echo in your ears. You are saying did you hear
that, did you hear it, do you hear it now? Oh,
sweet blessing. I don’t ever want to be alone.

The City That Never

At twilight, the subway train’s millipedic crawl
across the bridge feels as ordinary as the second hand
tracking its way around a grandfather clock before
the hour strikes. & on the river, you wouldn’t believe
people exist where they once were — out there, where
you know for certain the rotten office light’s still on,
the men & their ties & their power & their plans
to loosen up at the bar just built with its glass windowed
promenade overlooking the just built promenade.
But you get some distance from a place & it’s enough
to imagine what it looks like or could be at its heart.
People forget easier than they remember. But what
you forget, & how — oh, I remember I once saw
a boy on a bicycle steal a gold chain off a man’s neck
& then pedal away into eternity. I once saw a woman
find a whole real life star somewhere in the sky. I once
watched a child pirouette between the golden hour
& its shadow before laying up a ball. I once saw the moon
hide behind a building. I believed in God, New York,
before I didn’t. & then believed again & lost faith
& found it. But forgive me, the most beautiful
thing I ever saw was when I walked in on my father
asleep on my couch in this city. I saw him breathing.
I thought how could anyone fall asleep here, in the city
of light? I thought it means a lot to leave a place with just
your eyes. I thought it means a lot to be tired of something,
so tired, always tired, to be honest, I don’t know
what that means, tell me what’s that mean, what’s that —




BIO: Devin Kelly is the author of In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (Civil Coping Mechanisms) and the co-host of the Dead Rabbits Reading Series. He is the winner of a Best of the Net Prize, and his writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Guardian, LitHub, Catapult, DIAGRAM, Redivider, and more. He lives and teaches high school in New York City.